A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Henry S Terhune (1859-1942); Judge, NJ State Senator

To follow up on my question of whom Terhune Park is named after, the Matawan Aberdeen Library was kind enough to forward me a 25 July 1930 article from the Matawan Journal that summarizes the donation of land to the borough. I've excerpted the beginning of that article below.

Judge Terhune Presents Park to Matawan
Also Gives $1,000 Toward Cost of Beautifying
Always to be Used for Park Purposes
Mayor Heuser Gives Land and
Ex-Mayor Sutphin Use of Land
for Approaches to Lake Lefferts

The Borough Council meeting on Tuesday night was a series of pleasant surprises.

The first of these was the announcement of a gift of a large tract of land on Main Street, South Street, and Broad Street, next to the gully bridge, which Hon. H. S. Terhune offered the Borough, together with $1,000 toward the expense of beautifying it as a permanent park and bird sanctuary. Mr. Terhune's letter to Mayor Christian Heuser was as follows:

During one of his visits at Matawan, Mr. Carl F. Pilat, of New York, recognized as one of the best landscape architects in this country, after looking carefully over the lot on the southwest corner of South and Main Streets, said to me that this lot could be made into an attractive park and an ideal bird sanctuary.

With this end in view, I am willing to deed this property to the Borough. The deed contains a covenant that the land shaill always be used for a public park and for recreational purposes, and that no building of any kind , at any time, be erected thereon. Recognizing the fact that some expense would be incurred in shaping up this lot for recreational purposes and being desirous of relieving the taxpayer of at least part of such expense, in case the Board of Commissioners, after due deliberation, decided to accept said deed of gift containing the conditions above indicated, I agree, upon said acceptance, to present the Board with $1,000 . Said sum, of course, to be set aside by the Commissioners for the purpose of beautifying said land.

Respectfully yours,

H. S. Terhune

Mayor Heuser said that the gift was a most unusual one and the members of the Council were quick to offer a resolution praising the generosity of Mr. Terhune and accepting the gift for Matawan.

According to Scannell's New Jersey's First Citizens (1917-1918), Henry S Terhune was born in Matawan, NJ on 8 June 1860, the son of William L Terhune. His namesake was apparently his mother's brother, Henry Stafford Little, who was "a dominant force in the politics of New Jersey." He graduated Princeton and Columbia Law School. He apprenticed under John S. Applegate of Red Bank. He was admitted to the bar in 1885 and became a Counsellor in 1890. He was appointed in 1913 by President Woodrow Wilson to a six-year term on the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals. He maintained a law practice at Long Branch. He chaired the Monmouth County Democratic Committee for many years and was elected to the New Jersey State Senate in 1890.

The 1920 Federal Census for New Jersey shows a widowed 59 year old Henry S. Terhune living at 213 Main Street in Matawan, along with a nurse from Pennsylvania named Myra L. Walter and a Japanese butler named George Susuda. As a favored nephew of Henry S Little, Terhune's wealth was at least partly due to inheritance, according to Scannell's above. The 1930 census showed Terhune's occupation as President of BAWC. (?)

The 1900 Federal Census shows a 39 year old Henry Terhune and wife Mary, who had been married for five years at the time, living in Henry's father's household in Matawan. Henry was the breadwinner as a lawyer, while his parents, in their eighties with 56 years of marriage, were retired.

The 1860 Federal Census shows a 1 year old Henry and three brothers living in Matawan with their parents, William L and Margaret (Little) Terhune, as well as their uncle Henry S. Little, under their maternal grandfather's roof. William Little, 80 years old, was a wealthy retired Irish merchant with $60,000 worth of cash and properties in 1920. Both Henry's father and uncle were lawyers with a combined wealth of $20,000. And there were two Irish servants in the household.

Rutgers University Libraries' Women's History Sources: A Guide lists several manuscripts held in the university's archives. Here's their entry on Terhune:

TERHUNE, Henry S. (Henry Stafford), ca. 1859-1942.
Letters received, 1878-1883 (bulk 1879-1882).
ca. 34 items (1 envelope).

Lawyer and state legislator, of Long Branch, N.J.; was graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1882 and from the Columbia University School of Law in 1885.

Letters, June 15, 1879-August 21, 1882 (and March 21, 1883), received by Terhune while he was a student at the College of New Jersey in Princeton, N.J. Most of the letters were sent from Matawan, N.J., by members of his family, including his father (William), mother (Margaret L.) and sister (Margaret). Also included are three letters (1879) written by Terhune's uncle, Henry Stafford Little, and two letters (1878 and 1879) received by Little.


The New York Times mentions Senator Terhune in an article called The New Appointees dated 21 March 1893. I don't have a subscription, but someone who has one can check its contents.

I've written to Political Graveyard to let them know that Henry is buried at the top of the hill at Rose Hill Cemetery on Ravine Drive in Matawan. A large rectangular monument has markings on all four sides with a number of the members of the Terhune and Little families. Small stones with initials surround the monument to mark the individual graves.


  1. Well thank god for Mr. Terhune. Without his donation and stipulation that it be a park we would probably have some ugly building sitting there right now.

    Driving down main street the other day and I was just disgusted by the fact that we have a beautiful lake and creek right on our main street yet we have a 7 eleven next to one and a quick chek next to the other. What an absolute horrible job of planning the leaders of this town have done over the years!

  2. It is a fine park. We do owe Mr Terhune a debt of gratitude. If the land hadn't been donated, would there have been a park at all? I wonder.

    The oddest thing to me is that the post office has such a prominent spot in downtown. Why put a mail distribution center and fenced in parking area right in the middle of downtown? Plus, isn't there tons of space behind the store fronts on Main Street between Little Street and Maloney's? A little creative redesign and you could have a lot more shops on pedestrian walkways perpendicular to Main Street and even some parking in the rear.

  3. Tradionally, in America, Post Offices have always served as main centers of activity and natural focal points for town planners. Stand outside on any given day and see how often people go up and down those stairs. I'm grateful for its location, it gives the town some semblence of life!

  4. I like having a post office in town, but the Matawan Post Office is too large a facility for downtown. I just recommend having a smaller PO on Main Street, even preserving the frontage that's already there. We just need the rest of that block, which has a warehouse and fenced in parking for the postal fleet. Nothing traditional about watching red, white and blue trucks come and go from a large gated parking lot.